The Incompetence of Ireland’s Office of Public Works
October 24, 2012 Leave a comment
I was not surprised when I read that 37 pieces of art have recently disappeared from Leinster House under the careful watch of the OPW. A spokesman’s comment to the Irish Independent claiming that “given the size of the collection under the auspices of the OPW, it is impossible to know where everything is all of the time” merely made me roll my eyes and mutter “typical”.
I have long argued that the OPW is one of the most incompetent of all state bodies. Even the trendy-lefty Irish Times featured an editorial last year advocating privatization. The OPW simply do a terrible job of promoting and maintaining their assets, even those they graciously allow the public to access in the first place.
Take the example of a wonderful treasure like Camden Fort in Crosshaven, which has been sealed off from the public by the OPW for years and left to rot. Far too few people are aware that this corner of Cork possesses one of the finest examples of a Coastal Artillery Fort in the world.
Thankfully, since about 2010 a voluntary action group called Rescue Camden has been allowed to enter and clean up the site, and are trying hard to address this problem.
I tried to visit Camden Fort in 2007 for the excellent views of Cork Harbour as well as to see the underground tunnels there. The whole thing was surrounded by an ugly, menacing fence. My companions and I managed to persuade the ‘security’ (a little old lady) to let us in. Then she went away without telling us, locking the entrance behind her. The underground network turned out to be sealed off anyway. Thus, we were left trapped in this admittedly beautiful spot. A mysterious fisherman eventually came by but refused to say how he came in or out. He actually recommended we jump a trench (which would have easily killed us) if we wished to ‘escape’. When this proved unfeasible he produced the keys for the front gate and told us to keep quiet about it.
I wrote to the OPW after my ill-fated visit, despite the fact that I was not supposed to be there. With the millions that have been spent apparently securing the place, I thought they might be open to some friendly suggestions. The OPW did not respond.
Camden Fort would be an ideal location for a military museum. I’m told they have been promising one for decades. When I was there, I actually saw an old piano among the mess inside one of its collapsing buildings.
At least the public can actually walk in there now, and see how important and impressive Fort Camden is. Its a scenic location and a very impressive complex. Any country would be proud to have it.
But this is all typical of the OPW. They have refused to build proper paths to access many sites that would be of interest interest to tourists both foreign and domestic, as if they don’t want anybody to visit them. You have to cross fields to access numerous interesting sites, if you know of their existence in the first place. They don’t properly maintain many sites that are open to visitors, but could attract a lot more if managed properly. I’ve even been told that the OPW have destroyed valuable old records on subjects like Ireland’s Great Famine to make room for storage in their plush headquarters in St. Stephen’s Green.
I’d love to know what individual objects of art or otherwise the OPW has locked away in some warehouse. Not that the Lords of the OPW would ever tell us.